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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

International action on climate change

Find out what organisations, businesses and projects around the world are doing to tackle climate change, and what action the UK government is taking. You can also make a difference by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide (CO2).

Global action on climate change

Governments around the world have signed up to a number of agreements to combat climate change.

Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, countries agreed to take action and reduce emissions. The Kyoto Protocol set laws requiring countries to lower emissions.

Targets from the Kyoto Protocol

Many countries that signed the protocol agreed to reduce their greenhouse gases by 2012. European Union countries were given their own targets, and the UK committed to reduce its emissions by 12.5 per cent on 1990 levels.

Progress with Kyoto targets and beyond

The UK is on track to meet, and improve on, its Kyoto target. In 2010, the UK’s emissions are predicted to be around 11 per cent lower than the levels required by Kyoto.

The government also has long-term plans to lower CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions even further. The Climate Change Act includes legally binding targets, including an 80 per cent cut in greenhouse gases by 2050.

Latest agreements

The targets agreed at Kyoto expire in 2012. A United Nations (UN) conference in Copenhagen in December 2009 aimed to decide what the global targets and action will be after this time.

The Copenhagen conference resulted in the Copenhagen Accord, signed by the majority of countries. The accord includes:

  • international backing for an overall limit of 2 degrees Celsius on global warming
  • agreement that all countries need to take action on climate change
  • financial help for the countries most at risk from climate change

Find out about these and other agreements from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) website.

Climate change projects around the world

Organisations and communities around the globe are taking action to combat climate change.

Powering Thai villages with water power

Villagers on the Thai-Burmese border have installed water power systems to get energy for buildings including schools, clinics, temples and households. Other villages are using solar power and biogas (energy from waste like manure) systems.

Danish island has a neutral carbon footprint

The island of Samsø has installed renewable energy technologies like wind turbines, and even sells energy to the mainland. Imports of fossil fuels have reduced significantly, and residents’ energy bills have gone down.

Action by the UK government

The government has long-term and more immediate plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Lowering carbon dioxide emissions

The government is working to reduce the country’s carbon footprint by:

  • ensuring that 40 per cent of electricity will come from low carbon sources, including renewable energy and nuclear power
  • halving the amount of gas imported
  • promoting carbon capture and storage (capturing the CO2 that’s given off when fossil fuels like coal are burnt, and storing it safely underground)
  • supporting new fuels and technologies (like electric cars) to reduce CO2 emissions from transport
  • setting ‘carbon budgets’ to cap the UK’s overall CO2 emissions – if emissions rise in one sector, savings will have to be made elsewhere

Ways the UK government is acting on climate change

As well as setting targets and goals, the government is also:

  • working with energy suppliers to help people make their homes more energy efficient
  • getting energy suppliers to provide more electricity from renewable sources
  • providing grants that encourage people and organisations to generate their own heat and power from renewable sources
  • raising the tax on dumping to landfill sites – so it’s more financially beneficial to recycle

What businesses are doing

In the UK, the private sector is responsible for about 40 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Businesses play an important part in reducing the overall carbon footprint.

Emissions trading

Under emissions trading schemes, the government sets a limit on the amount of greenhouse gases companies can release. Companies are given credits (or ‘allowances’) that represent their right to release greenhouse gases within the limit. Companies that release less can sell their unused credits to companies that go over the limit. Companies with higher emissions are persuaded to reduce them.

Businesses tackling climate change

Some companies are taking action on climate change, for example by:

  • using more energy efficient technology, like combined heat and power
  • choosing greener transport options like electric cars
  • not transporting goods by air (aviation is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions)

If you work in an organisation where there are opportunities to make things greener, Business Link has advice to get you started.

What you can do

You can make a difference to climate change by making greener choices; from saving energy to choosing different transport options. ‘Greener living: a quick guide to what you can do’ is a good place to start.

Climate friendly communities

Communities are coming together to take action on climate change.

Ashton Hayes aims to be England’s first carbon neutral village. By planting trees and saving energy, they cut one fifth of their emissions in the first year. Exeter has also set ambitious targets to lower its CO2 emissions.

Try searching the internet for community groups near you, or consider setting something up. ‘Communities: ways to be greener’ has some tips for groups.

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